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Write Better

We can improve our writing with either free or moderately priced options. Current technology will not only correct our spelling but also our grammar and improve our writing style. These programs will make our writing better. These are not simply grammar checkers. They are writing improvement programs. They examine your writing and help you make it clearer and more concise. Using them will improve your writing. It will make it easier to understand what you write.

Don't think these checkers will edit your documents for you. They won't. They make suggestions. Perhaps a third of those suggestions will be helpful. Often, they just cause you to think about the sentence and figure out a better way to write it. Anything that will make me think is useful (possibly extraordinary).

Some Examples

Here are some examples of suggestions a style checker made. I've boldfaced what it objected to.

1. I wrote: It is really important that you make backups.

It didn't like really and suggested I find a better word instead of the weak modifier "really"

I changed it to: It is critical that you make backups.

2. I wrote: it creates a number of sub-folders
It suggested: it creates several sub-folders
I agreed with it.

3. I wrote: If you put stuff on your desktop, then you'll want to back up that folder as well.
It didn't think "as well" was needed. I agreed and deleted it. A little more examination and I didn't like the folder either. I ended up with: If you put stuff on your desktop, then you must back that up.

Sometimes it makes suggestions you won't accept. Sometimes it objects and has no solutions. However, the process will make you a stronger writer and your documents easier to read.


There are three critical factors to consider when choosing a grammar and style assistance program:
  • Price
  • Ease of use
  • Helpfulness - How good is the program at helping you?

How well the software integrates with your work style is what I mean by Ease of use. If a program inserts itself into your word processor and works at the press of a key, then it is easy to use. It is also easy to use if it will read your document after you've saved it, make changes and then write the document back. However, if it requires you to load up another program or go to a website paste in your document, and make the changes manually, then it isn't easy to use. As you use the programs, you'll become a better editor of your own work, even when you aren't using them.

The Programs

There are three programs that stand out and seem to be the best. I reviewed and discarded others that weren't worth including in this article. I'll review each of them and discuss how they could integrate with various programs you might use.
  1. Grammarly
  2. ProWritingAid
  3. Hemingway Editor

A Brief Summary of each

  • Grammarly: The most expensive. Great at finding grammar errors. Good for business writing. Requires logging into an online account to use. Even the free program finds more grammar issues than the full version of ProWritingAid. For example, the word 'setup' is a noun. If you use it as a verb, it is 'set up'. The free Grammarly picks this up in context.
  • ProWritingAid: Good for grammar errors, but not as good as Grammarly. It can miss the distinction between 'setup' and 'set up', or other context-sensitive issues. ProWritingAid is less expensive than Grammarly and more focused on writers. It provides more style suggestions and is more configurable. ProWritingAid integrates with Libre Office, Open Office, and Scrivener in addition to Word. This was my choice. Like Grammarly, it automatically logs into an online account.
  • Hemingway Editor: The least expensive and most limited program. Focuses only on clarity, brevity, and active voice. It has its own editor which you can use or paste into. It exports to WordPress. This is a desktop program that does not require Internet access. It is very good for making sure your sentences are clear and direct, but doesn't resolve grammar issues or give as many suggestions for improvement as the other two.



It offers a free online service that does a basic check of your document by allowing you to paste your document into their online form and review their suggestions. They have an add-in for:
  • MS Office
  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Safari
  • Edge.

Here is their comparison between their free and paid versions. If you are an Office user, there is no reason not to add their add-in for MS Word and Outlook. In fact, I'd recommend the free version to every MS Office user. The browser plug-ins just give you a button to log-in to your account. You then paste your work into their online form and make changes, then paste back.

Even if you don't use MS Office, you can use their free Desktop app, which works like their browser add-in. It will open your online Grammarly account and allow you to paste in a file, check it, make changes and copy it back. Most people will be helped by this. When I use it, I make the changes by hand, since I would lose all my formatting if I pasted it back.

Here is a video showing their MS Office plug-in and here are simple pictorial instructions.

Grammarly reads and writes these types of files:
  • Text (.txt)
  • Rich text (rtf)
  • HTML
  • HTM
  • Old word (DOC)
  • Current MS Word (DOCX)

So, for any of these files you can read, edit, and then save back to the original file. Other file types require the more difficult task of either copying and pasting back and forth or editing in one window while checking in another. On my test document, the free Grammarly read a .docx file, corrected 5 spelling errors, 4 grammar errors and 2 punctuation errors. It then wrote the file back preserving all the formatting.

For $139.95/yr. Grammarly will offer you twice as many style and grammar tips. Given how good their free version is, I suspect this is excellent as well.


This is the product I use for my Newsletters and other writing. Their premium version is used by over 500,000 writers. It has full integration with:
  • MS Word
  • Chrome
  • Google Docs

It reads and writes these files, making editing them very easy.
  • Scrivener
  • Open Office
  • Libre Office
  • Rich Text
  • HTML
  • Markdown.

Since I use Scrivener for my writing, and occasionally use Libre Office, this was my best choice.

They have nineteen categories of style mistakes, and you choose which to check. For example, if you don't care about checking for dialog problems you need not check for them. They believe you do better when focused on a particular type of error, but also offer a combo check where you choose which of the 19 to put together. They also offer templates for adjusting their suggestions to the type of writing you do. A fiction writer will get different suggestions than a technical writer or writing for business or the web.

Up to 500 words (about a typed page), can be proofed using their online editor for free. This will allow you to test their advice, but you must copy and paste back into a program or make the changes while working with their online editor. Not really a bad option for shorter writing.

$50 for 1 year
$75 for 2 years
$100 for 3 years
$175 for lifetime

ProWritingAid quick tour 4-minute video.

Hemingway editor

Hemingway editor takes a different approach. First off, it's cheap. Only $19.99 for a one-time cost. You get a desktop program for either Mac or Windows and free upgrades for life. No Internet connection needed. Its goal is also simpler. Just to clean up your prose and make it simpler, removing the superfluous words. It tries to make your prose more forceful by forcing active voice, simpler sentences, fewer complex words and adverbs. It gives you about 20% what you get from Grammarly or ProWritingAid. However, this doesn't mean it will not help you.

You can use it for free by pasting your work into their online editor. Their online editor is essentially the same as their desktop app. You just don't get the import and export options.

The program is a clean simple word processor, giving you basic formatting functions without complexity. But it also gives you feedback on the complexity and power of your writing.

It will export to WordPress blogs and Medium. It also exports to HTML, and for simple pages it should be just fine. It can import from Word, and export back to Word or PDF.

I found this harder to use and much less useful than ProWritingAid. The free Grammarly did a better job finding grammar mistakes, but Hemingway did a better job making my writing clearer and more concise.

What I do

I use all three! Mostly, I use ProWritingAid. But I do sometimes use the free Grammarly to check articles. Occasionally I paste some writing into Hemingway Editor to see what it has to say, and it can usually improve my writing.


Any or all of these will improve your writing. Grammarly is the best for grammar errors, ProWritingAid the best for creative writing and Hemingway Editor for clear sharp prose cheap. Grammarly and ProWritingAid do both grammar and style checking and are very helpful. It is just that they each have their special strengths. If you use Libre Office, Open Office or Scrivener for writing, then ProWritingAid is your best option since Grammarly doesn't integrate with those. For MS Office users, both subscriptions offer full integration, but only Grammarly has integration for their free version.

Try setting up a free account with both ProWritingAid and Grammarly. Then take a page of your own writing and paste it into their free online checker and see how they work for you.

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Date: June 2018

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